Buoyed by growing, albeit still rather moderate, heating load and a screen jump of more than 20 cents the day before, cash prices advanced strongly across the board Thursday. Increases ranged from 30 cents to nearly 60 cents, with the West tending to garner the lion’s share of the larger upticks.

The mass of cold air that had invaded the Midwest from Canada Wednesday was starting to edge over into the western sections of the Northeast, triggering gains of about 40 cents or more at nearly all market-area citygates. The South is also feeling some chill, and although it will be warming up again this weekend in the Texas/Louisiana end of that region, temperatures will drop into the mid to upper 40s as far south as the Florida Panhandle by Saturday morning, according to The Weather Channel.

The Energy Information Administration reported a 67 Bcf storage injection for the week ended Aug. 8, adding the intriguing footnote that 7 Bcf had been reclassified from working gas to base gas during the week. Effectively that meant it would have estimated a build of 74 Bcf without the reclassification. After an initially bullish reaction, futures traders eventually took the November contract 4.8 cents lower on the day.

Once again most of the hue and cry at Nymex was over in the oil products pits. Crude oil and heating oil continued their massive recovery from Tuesday’s setback with more record highs. Crude for November delivery hit an intraday peak of $54.88 before settling at $54.76, up $1.12. A government report of an unexpected drop in distillates inventory was chiefly credited for the new uprising.

Even with oil prices continuing to raise the record bar almost daily, an East Coast marketer said he has seen little if any switching to gas from fuel oil lately. But that’s because most of it has already occurred, he said; after all, high oil prices have been around for quite a while now. He didn’t think there’s very many with fuel-switching capability left that haven’t already made the change to gas.

Even though the gaps closed a bit Thursday as cash rose and the screen fell, a producer exclaimed “It’s a real mess!” about the still-large spread between the physical and futures markets. Even with a gain of more than 35 cents to the mid $5.70s, Henry Hub was still averaging more than a dollar below November futures.

To another source, the big question is which one — cash or screen — is going to travel the greater distance along the convergence path by late October.

“I look for Friday’s prices to be a little softer, at least in the Northeast,” said a marketer in the region. It’s gotten a bit cooler, he added, but weather load in the area remains on the modest side. Also, the EIA report meant storage inventories remain very comfortable. And of course, there are the factors of the screen drop Thursday and less industrial demand over the weekend, the marketer said.

It was rather curious that the PG&E citygate saw the biggest increase of the day in light of the utility extending a high-linepack OFO into its third day Friday (see Transportation Notes). However, one mitigating element was the further loosening of the tolerance for positive imbalances, which had begun at a rather stifling zero Wednesday, to 2% Thursday and to 10% Friday.

The Minerals Management Service said no change had occurred in the running tally of shut-in Gulf of Mexico production caused by Hurricane Ivan. With 19 companies reporting to it (the same number as the day before), the total remained at 1,706.02 MMcf/d Thursday, MMS said. The cumulative total of shut-ins from Sept. 11 through Thursday climbed to 84.326 Bcf, or 1.895% of yearly Gulf output.

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